370 U.S. 269 (1962), 396, Rudolph v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 396.
Citation:370 U.S. 269, 82 S.Ct. 1277, 8 L.Ed.2d 484
Party Name:C.J.D. RUDOLPH et al., Petitioners, v. UNITED STATES.
Case Date:June 18, 1962
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 269

370 U.S. 269 (1962)

82 S.Ct. 1277, 8 L.Ed.2d 484

C.J.D. RUDOLPH et al., Petitioners,

v.

UNITED STATES.

No. 396.

United States Supreme Court.

June 18, 1962

Argued April 3, 1962.

COUNSEL

[82 S.Ct. 1278] Richard A. Freling, Dallas, Tex., for petitioners.

John B. Jones, Jr., Washington, D.C., for respondent.

OPINION

PER CURIAM.

The petition for certiorari in this case was granted because it was thought to present important questions involving the definition of 'income' and 'ordinary and necessary' business expenses under the Internal Revenue Code. 368 U.S. 913, 82 S.Ct. 195, 7 L.Ed.2d 130. An insurance company provided

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a trip from its home office in Dallas, Texas, to New York City for a group of its agents and their wives. Rudolph and his wife were among the beneficiaries of this trip, and the Commissioner assessed its value to them as taxable income.[*] It appears to be agreed between the parties that the tax consequences of the trip turn upon the Rudolphs' 'dominant motive and purpose' in taking the trip and the company's in offering it. In this regard the District Court, on a suit for a refund, found that the trip was provided by the company for 'the primary purpose of affording a pleasure trip * * * in the nature of a bonus, reward, and compensation for a job well done' and that from the point of view of the Rudolphs it 'was primarily a pleasure trip in the nature of a vacation * * *.' D.C., 189 F.Supp. 2, 4--5. The Court of Appeals approved these findings. 5 Cir., 291 F.2d 841. Such ultimate facts are subject to the 'clearly erroneous' rule, cf. Commissioner v. Duberstein, 363 U.S. 278, 289--291, 80 S.Ct. 1190, 1199, 4 L.Ed.2d 1218 (1960), and their review would be of no importance save to the litigants themselves. The appropriate disposition in such a situation is to dismiss the writ as improvidently granted. See Rice v. Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, 349 U.S. 70, 78 n. 2, 75 S.Ct. 614, 618, 99 L.Ed. 897 (1955).

Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER took no part in the decision of this case.

Mr. Justice WHITE took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Separate opinion of Mr. Justice HARLAN.

Although the reasons given by the Court for dismissing the writ as improvidently granted should have been persuasive against granting certiorari, now that the case is here I think it better [82 S.Ct. 1279] to decide it, two members of the Court having dissented on the merits.

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The courts below concluded (1) that the value of this 'all expense' trip to the company-sponsored insurance convention constituted 'gross income' to the petitioners within the meaning of s 61 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, 26 U.S.C.A. s 61 and (2) that the amount reflected was not deductible as an 'ordinary and necessary' business expense under s 162 of the Code, 26 U.S.C.A. s 162.1 Both conclusions are, in my opinion, unassailable unless the findings of fact on which they rested are to be impeached by us as clearly erroneous. I do not think they can be on this record, especially in light of the 'seasoned and wise rule of this Court' which 'makes concurrent findings of two courts below final here in the absence of very exceptional showing of error.' Comstock v. Group of Institutional Investors, 335 U.S. 211, 214, 68 S.Ct. 1454, 1456, 92 L.Ed. 1911.

The basic facts, found by the District Court, are as follows. Petitioners, husband and wife, reside in Dallas, Texas, where the home office of the husband's employer, the Southland Life Insurance Company, is located. By having sold a predetermined amount of insurance, the husband qualified to attend the company's convention in New York City in 1956 and, in line with company policy, to bring his wife with him. The petitioners, together with 150 other employees and officers of the insurance company and 141 wives, traveled to and from New York City on special trains, and were housed in a single hotel during their two-and-one-half-day visit. One morning was devoted to a 'business meeting' and group luncheon, the rest of the time in New York City to 'travel, sight-seeing, entertainment, fellowship or free time.' The entire trip lasted one week.

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The company paid all the expenses of the convention-trip which amounted to $80,000; petitioners' allocable share being $560. When petitioners did not include the latter amount in their joint income tax return, the Commissioner assessed a deficiency which was sustained by the District Court, 189 F.Supp. 2, and also by the Court of Appeals, one judge dissenting, in a per curiam opinion, 291 F.2d 841, citing its recent decision in Patterson v. Thomas, 5 Cir., 289 F.2d 108, where the same result had been reached. The District Court held that the value of the trip being 'in the nature of a bonus, reward, and compensation for a job well done,' was income to Rudolph, but being 'primarily a pleasure trip in the nature of a vacation,' the costs were personal and nondeductible.

I.

Under s 61 of the 1954 Code was the value of the trip to the taxpayer-husband properly includible in gross income? That section defines gross income as 'all income from whatever source derived,' including, among other items, 'compensation for services.' Certain sections of the 1954 Code enumerate particular receipts which are included in the concept of 'gross income,'2 including prizes and awards (with certain exceptions);3 [82 S.Ct. 1280]

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while other sections, ss 101--121, specifically exclude certain receipts from 'gross income,' including, for example, gifts and inheritances4 (see Commissioner v. Duberstein, 363 U.S. 278, 80 S.Ct. 1190, 4 L.Ed.2d 1218), and meals or lodgings furnished for the convenience of the employer.5 The Treasury Regulations emphasize the inclusiveness of the concept of 'gross income.'6

In light of the sweeping scope of s 61 taxing 'all gains except those specifically exempted,' Commissioner v. Glenshaw Glass Co., 348 U.S. 426, 430, 75 S.Ct. 473, 476, 99 L.Ed. 483; see Commissioner v. Lo Bue, 351 U.S. 243, 246, 76 S.Ct. 800, 802, 100 L.Ed. 1142; James v. United States, 366 U.S. 213, 219, 81 S.Ct. 1052, 1055, 6 L.Ed.2d 246, and its purpose to include as taxable income 'any economic or financial benefit conferred on the employee as compensation, whatever the form or mode by which it is effected,' Commissioner v. Smith, 324 U.S. 177, 181, 65 S.Ct. 591, 593, 89 L.Ed. 830, it seems clear that the District Court's findings, if sustainable, bring the value of the trip within the reach of the statute.

Petitioners do not claim that the value of the trip is within one of the statutory exclusions from 'gross income' (see notes 4 and 5, supra) as did the taxpayer in Patterson v. Thomas, 289 F.2d 108, 111--112; rather they characterize the amount as a 'fringe benefit' not specifically

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excluded from s 61 by other sections of the statute, yet not intended to be encompassed by its reach. Conceding that the statutory exclusions from 'gross income' are not exhaustive, as the Government seems to recognize is so under Glenshaw, it is not now necessary to explore the extent of any such nonstatutory exclusions.7 For it was surely within the Commissioner's competence to consider as 'gross income' a 'reward, or a bonus given to * * * employees for excellence in service,' which the District Court found was the employer's primary purpose in arranging this trip. I cannot say that this finding, confirmed as it [82 S.Ct. 1281] has been by the Court of Appeals, is inadequately supported by this record.8

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There remains the question whether, though income, this outlay for transportation, meals, and lodging was deductible by petitioners as an 'ordinary and necessary' besiness expense under s 162.9 The relevant factors on this branch of the case are found in Treas. Reg. s 1.162--2.10 In summary, the regulation in pertinent part provides:

Traveling expenses, including meals, lodgings and other incidentals, reasonable and necessary in the conduct of the taxpayer's business and directly attributable to it are deductible, but expenses of a trip

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'undertaken for other than business purposes' are 'personal expenses' and the meals and lodgings are 'living expenses.' Treas.Reg. s 1.162--2(a).

If a taxpayer who travels to a destination engages in both 'business and personal activities,' the traveling expenses are deductible only if the trip is 'related primarily' to the taxpayer's business; if 'primarily personal,' the traveling expenses are not deductible even though the taxpayer engages in some business there; yet expenses allocable to the taxpayer's trade or business there are deductible even though the travel expenses to and fro are not.11 Id., s 1.162--2(b)(1).

[82 S.Ct. 1282] Whether a trip is related primarily to the taxpayer's business or is primarily personal in nature 'depends on the facts and circumstances in each case.' Id., s 1.162--2(b) (2); so too with expenses paid or incurred in attending a convention. Id., s 1.162--2(d).

Finally, the deductibility of the expenses of a taxpayer's wife who accompanies her husband depends, first, on whether his trip is a 'business trip.' Id., s 1.162--2(c); if so, it must further be shown that the wife's...

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